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Bibliothèque nationale de France

Formation rocheuses, Yoichi, Hokkaido, japon, 2002
Formation rocheuses, Yoichi, Hokkaido, japon, 2002
Moai, Etude 16, Iles de Pâques, Chili, 2000
Moai, Etude 16, Iles de Pâques, Chili, 2000
Centrale électrique de Ratcliffe, Etude 41, Notting hamshire, England
Centrale électrique de Ratcliffe, Etude 41, Notting hamshire, England


Michael Kenna

From 13/10/09 to 24/01/10
Richelieu Site – Photography gallery
Curator: Anne Biroleau, General Curator of Art Prints and Photography departments at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (French National Library)

The Bibliothèque nationale de France is dedicating an exhibition in autumn 2009 to the English photographer Michael Kenna. This retrospective retraces his career through around 200 photographs which allow us to appreciate the evolution of his individually recognizable style, the freedom of his prejudices and the sophistication of his prints.

Born in 1953 in Widnes, an industrial town in Lancashire, Michael Kenna is a photographing traveller. Far from the phenomena of fashion and aesthetic dogmatism, Kenna has built a body of work centred on the question
of the landscape, a landscape enclosed in the format of the miniature, a deserted landscape. Sometimes, man is present in his landscapes, in an empty way, in a strange, ghost-like manner, by the subtle or painful traces he leaves on the world.

Nature is revealed in his work through long poses and night shots or those taken at dawn or at dusk, when the light contrasts of texture and material. His work is governed by the rhetoric of light and dark, learned and sophisticated.

The industrial “black country” resulting from the XIXth century and its coal dust, those dark towns criss-crossed by railways, overlooked by tall furnaces and the huge structures of nuclear power stations sit alongside the mysterious mists of the English countryside. Behind his lens, the geometrical lines of the formal 18th century French or Russian gardens remind us that nature and the countryside are above all cultural constructions.

The shores and the islands inspire this contemplative solitary of the “Marines”, where the picturesque gives way to the mystery of natural elements. Under Kenna's eye, Easter Island or the Mont-Saint-Michel rediscover the enchantment and the magical atmosphere of the sacred places they once were. His recent work tends towards the style of a working drawing, in the landscapes of Japan and China. The graphical symbol takes the place of the figurative one.

With Kenna's work, description always leaves plenty of room for suggestion, and for the imagination of the “watcher”. “In photography, I consider myself as closer to haiku than to Joyce”.

Kenna does not impose any message on us, he offers the freedom of a journey through photography.

Exhibition within Paris Photo


website : Bibliothèque nationale de France